Kenneth von Heidecke
1952 -   Class of 2008  Performing Arts
Kenneth von Heidecke has been involved in professional ballet since 1975, when he began his dance career as a soloist. For 6 years he danced principal roles in the U.S. and Italy until a mid-air collision in 1981 permanently injured both his knees.  So he turned to choreographing ballets and operas for prestigious organizations around the world, including the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center, Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival, Germany’s Badisches Staatstheater, Kennedy Center’s Washington Opera, the Los Angeles Music Center, the San Diego Opera, Dallas Opera, San Francisco Opera, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  

By 2008, Kenneth had choreographed more than 50 ballets and 50 operas throughout Europe and the U.S.  In addition, he provided coaching in stylized movement for opera greats such as Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Viktoria Vizin, and Denise Graves.

Born in Berwyn, Illinois, in 1952, Kenneth received his B.A. in English Literature from Elmhurst College in 1974, with special studies in dance, art, Italian, and music.  From 1975 through 1985, he was the student of prima ballerina assoluta Maria Tallchief, who officially named him her protégé in 2006.  “To audiences, she put her incredible stamp of approval on my work,” von Heidecke said.  Tallchief felt the distinction was well-earned, and when asked what set Kenneth apart, she responded, “He listened to everything I said.”

Additional ballet training came from George Balanchine, David Howard, Paul Mejia, Melissa Haydn, Jacques D’Amboise, John Taras, Eva Lorraine, Edward Parrish, and Eugene Tanner.
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Kenneth’s early teaching years, 1985-1987, were spent on the faculty of Rockford College. Twice he served as dance panelist for the Illinois Arts Council, from 1987-1990 and from 2001-2004.  He has been a member of the American Guild of Musical Artists since 1975.

“Everyone assumes the transition from dancer to choreographer is automatic, but it’s not,” Kenneth explained.  “I had to learn that many of the things I did came naturally to me as a dancer, but I would have to teach that to others.”

Although he was offered a contract as artistic director for the Milwaukee Ballet in 1990, Tallchief stepped in and suggested he open a school of his own.  So, Kenneth von Heidecke founded the Chicago Festival Ballet and opened his school, which today offers high-level classical ballet training at studios in Naperville and Joliet for young students from the western suburbs and the Fox Valley area.  In September of 1994, the Chicago Festival Ballet was endorsed as an official ballet company for the State of Illinois.  His company is known for its stunning annual productions of the “Nutcracker,” “Cinderella,” and “Repertoire,” performed nationally and locally with full symphony orchestras.

Nathalie Krossovska, the former legendary ballerina of Paris Opera Ballet, Ballet Russe, and the London Festival Ballet, said Kenneth’s is “one of the best ballet schools in the world.”  Over 30 of his students have gone on to careers with major ballet companies in the U.S. and Europe.
In his work as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher, several performances stand out.  In 1975, Kenneth was hand chosen by the renowned Maria Tallchief to dance in the world premier of George Balanchine’s choreography of “Orfeo ed Euridice” at the Lyric Opera.  In 1989, Kenneth commenced his international choreography career with the world premier of “Les Sirenes” at Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival, receiving rave reviews in London’s Sunday Daily Telegraph.
In 1997, he was invited to choreograph four premieres for “An Evening of Ballet” at the Badisches Staatstheatre in Karlsruhe, Germany, earning a 20-minute standing ovation and critical acclaim in European publications, as well as an Honorary Award for artistic merit from Germany’s Parliament.  In 1995-1996, Kenneth von Heidecke served as Ballet Master/Choreographer for the U.S. Olympic Rhythmic Gymnastic Team.

In 2006, Kenneth was invited to choreograph “Dracula,” a full-length ballet, for the National Ballet of Panama, an achievement that also won national praise.  In 2007, his choreography was featured in 5 PBS programs.  He also appeared in a PBS documentary on the life of Maria Tallchief.

In referring to his career as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher, Kenneth said, “Things like this are God-given.  Dance is worshipping God through the arts.”

Visit Kenneth von Heidecke’s website at: www.chicagofestivalballet.com
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 Selected by prima ballerina assoluta Maria Tallchief to dan